[Below is a copy of a letter that the Wisconsin Department of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection wrote to Miller Brewing
regarding their plastic beer bottle. Key issues include the
recyclability of this bottle and the labeling of the bottle as to
the type of resin that it is made of and labeling the bottle as
This letter was prompted in part by concerns that local recyclers
have on the introduction of this bottle.]
February 26, 1999
John N. MacDonough
Chief Executive Officer
Miller Brewing Co.
3939 West Highland Blvd
Milwaukee, WI 53201-0482
Dear Mr. MacDonough:
Miller Brewing Company recently began test marketing a
newly designed plastic beer bottle in 20-ounce and one liter
sizes in several metropolitan areas in the U.S.
We have read about recycling-related problems and
concerns associated with this newly designed container --
issues that are detailed in an EPA-funded multi-state Plastic
Redesign Project report, entitled "The Potential Impacts of
Plastic Beer Bottles on Plastics Recyling."
I am writing to give you a "heads up" on several
Wisconsin laws and regulations affecting environmental
marketing claims and plastic container packaging design
associated with sales and distribution of consumer products in
the state. I believe a thorough discussion and early resolution
of concerns will certainly prevent compliance related problems
down the road. Additionally, I wish to offer any assistance or
guidance to Miller Brewing Company related to compliance
with these environmental standards in the event that test
marketing of the plastic beer bottle is successful.
Sale of Nonrecyclable Materials
S. 100.29, Stats., requires the Department of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to
investigate complaints of any new product packaging for which
there may be inadequate markets to make recycling of this
packaging economically feasible.
This law states "if the department determines that the
product has been in commerce in this state for at least three
years and the complaint is well-founded, it shall inform the
manufacturer or distributor of the new packaging and attempt
to ensure an adequate market within a reasonable period
through negotiations." The statute further directs DATCP to identify
by rule any type of new packaging for food or beverages for which
negotiations did not yield a satisfactory result.
The enclosed Plastic Redesign Project report cited
previously acknowledges the need for product manufacturers
to innovate packaging to remain competitive, and it also
provides helpful information how that innovation can proceed
so "there is....an adequate market to make recycling of a type
of new packaging economically feasible", to quote the verbage
of s. 100.29, Stats.
Although s. 100.29, Stats., was enacted in 1990, the
Department has never received a formal complaint triggering a
negotiation process and rulemaking to ensure adequate
recycling markets. In light of some of the concerns expressed
with regard to the current plastic beer bottle design, however, it
is not unreasonable to expect the filing of a complaint on this
Plastic Resin Coding Requirements
S. 100.33, Stats., and ch. ATCP 137, Subchapter II,
Wis. Adm. Code, detail requirements for labeling plastic
containers based on resin composition. The purpose of these
requirements is to provide basic information needed by
material recovery operations to facilitate plastic recycling. The
requirements are patterned after industry guidelines of the
Society of Plastics Industry (SPI), but less flexible in some
The law prohibits the wholesale and retail sale of plastic
containers or products in such plastic containers which fail to
comply with the labeling requirements set forth in department
rules. Generally, the rules require all plastic containers, 8
ounces or larger, to be labeled with a number inside a
triangular symbol, and letters underneath the symbol,
identifying the resin composition of the container.
We understand that the plastic beer bottle designed for
Miller Brewing Company will consist of five layers of
polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and two thin, non-PET
barrier layers of polyamide comprising less than 5% of the
container by weight.
Ch. ATCP 137.13(2)(a), Wis. Adm. Code, states that "If
the plastic container is made of polyethylene terephthalate, the
number "1" and the letters "PETE" with the symbol" shall be
used. On the other hand, ss. ATCP 137.13(2)(g) of this rule
states that "If the plastic container is made of other resins or of
multiple resins, the number "7" and the word "OTHER" with the
symbol" shall be used. Thus, the current Miller Brewing
Company plastic beer bottle would need to be labeled with the
number "7" under our current rules.
An exception to ss. ATCP 137.13(2)(g) states that "A
plastic container whose label or base cup is composed of a
different resin shall be labeled according to the container's
principle resin." However, the Miller bottle would not appear to
fit this exception in order to be labeled a number "1". This, of
course, presupposes that Miller Brewing Company's plan was
to label the bottle as a PET container.
Environmental Labeling of Recycled, Recylable or Degradable
S. 100.295, Stats., requires DATCP to establish
standards that must be met by products in order for those
products to be labeled or otherwise represented as "recycled",
"recyclable" or "degradable". The Department accomplished
this directive in 1994 with the final adoption of ch. ATCP 137,
Subchapter I, Wis. Adm. Code.
Provisions related to recyclability representations are
found in ss. ATCP 137.05, Wis. Adm. Code. This states that
"No person may represent, without qualification, that a product
is recyclable unless the product is entirely composed of
materials that satisfy all of the following requirements:
(a) The materials can be collected, separated or
otherwise recovered from the solid waste stream by
recycling systems that are readily available to a
substantial majority of the population in the area where
the product is sold, using normal methods of operation.
(b) The materials recovered under par. (a) can, by
means of established commercial processes, be
processed and reused as raw materials for the
manufacture of new products."
Nor may a product or container manufacturer
misrepresent that a product is "compatible (emphasis added)
with suitable recycling systems that are readily available in the
area where the product is sold." Our current rules state "If,
because of the product's size or shape, or for any other
reason, a product is incompatible with recycling systems, no
person may represent that the product is recyclable."
Again, this discussion presupposes some intention by
Miller Brewing Company to incorporate some sort of
environmental representation in the marketing of the currently
designed plastic beer bottle.
Request for Information
Only recently have we been told of some of the
recycling concerns associated with plastic beer bottles. This is
a new issue for us as it is a new packaging technology for you.
However, the basic thrust of the concerns is that widespread
introduction of currently designed plastic beer bottles will
degrade the existing economics of recycling.
According to the report of the Plastic Redesign Project,
Miller Brewing Company's vendor -- Continental PET
Technologies -- is pursuing a detailed procedure to evaluate
the recyclability of the bottle's barrier material, including
commercial testing, autosorting color systems, and analysis of
the feasibility of developing internal markets for the amber
tinted material. These are important elements for determining
not only the technical but also the economic feasibility of
recycling the multi-layered plastic beer bottle.
Other determining factors for judging the recyclability of
the proposed bottle design are the container cap and label.
We would greatly appreciate efforts by Miller Brewing
Company to keep us informed of any commercial testing
results and marketing analysis conclusions associated with
introduction of the multi-layered plastic beer bottle.
In the meantime, we are pleased to extend again our
assistance to ensure compliance with the various plastic
container labeling regulations which we are responsible for
administering and enforcing. I can be reached at 608-224-
4944 if there are any questions or concerns on the part of
Miller Brewing Company representatives.
Environment & Product Safety Section
Bureau of Consumer Protection
cc: Merry Fran Tryon, Director
Bureau of Consumer Protection